In a recent article, I discussed creating a
definitive list of Cisco management tools that should be in every
administrator’s toolbox, and I asked for TechRepublic members’ help (“What’s the
best Cisco router configuration and management tool?“).
Many of you chimed in with valuable suggestions. I’ve
taken notes on all of the recommended products, and I’ll be writing articles to
introduce you to some of the lesser known — but very valuable — Cisco network
This time, I want to focus on a core tool that many members mentioned
they had to have — a terminal emulator. It might not be the most glamorous
area of networking tools, but it’s an essential tool that you must have to use
the Cisco IOS command-line interface (CLI).
The best way to manage the Cisco IOS is through a terminal
emulator using the CLI. You can use a terminal emulator to connect to a router,
switch, or firewall’s CLI interface either over the network using Telnet or SSH
protocols or over a serial line
connected to the console of the device.
Members didn’t disappoint with their recommendations for a
terminal emulator. Here’s a quick look at their suggestions. Let’s find out how
the terminal emulators recommended by readers compare.
A product of VanDyke Software, SecureCRT provides Telnet,
serial, and SSH for the Windows OS. It offers a script recorder, logging, and
multiple session windows.
SecureCRT integrates with SecureFX for file transfer, and it
only works on Windows. I have seen SecureCRT used at Cisco sites and on Cisco
testing computers. It’s been around for a while (current version is 5.5), and
Cisco fully supports it.
One copy costs $99 (U.S.). Figure A shows a screenshot of SecureCRT.
An implementation of
Telnet and SSH for Windows and UNIX platforms, PuTTY provides Telnet,
serial, and SSH. It features a single executable to run and no installation. It
supports logging, and source code is freely available. One downside is that the
connection list isn’t easily stored.
Currently in version .60, PuTTY hasn’t seen heavy development, but
it works great. Also available are PuTTYtel, PSCP, PSFTP, Plink, Pageant, and
PuTTYgen, as well as hundreds of other products based on the source code of
Best of all, PuTTY is free. Figure
B and Figure C show screenshots
of the tool.
Available from Ayera Technologies’ Web site, TeraTerm Pro provides
Telnet, serial, and SSH for the Windows OS. It supports logging, and the source
code is freely available. It offers a saved setup, as well as add-ons such as a
Overall, this is a very nice terminal emulator. It’s similar
in look and feel to SecureCRT.
TeraTerm Pro is free. Figure
D shows a screenshot of the tool.
Supported by the Windows OS, the telnet command provides Telnet only. It’s only available at the
Windows command prompt, and odds are good you’re already familiar with this
Its biggest advantage is that it’s free. Figure E offers a screenshot of using
|Windows telnet command|
Also included in the Windows OS, the Windows HyperTerminal
program provides Telnet and serial, but no SSH. It offers logging and XMODEM
file transfer to get files onto switches or routers with the correct IOS.
While Windows HyperTerminal is also free, it can be
frustrating to use sometimes. Figure F
offers a screenshot of the program.
Of course, there are many more Windows terminal emulators
than just these — including PowerVT,
PowerTerm, WRQ Reflection, HotVT, TinyTERM, and BlueZone.
For Linux, there are even more (such as Konsole).
There are some great terminal emulators out there available
for no cost. In my opinion, it’s worth the time to upgrade from Windows HyperTerminal
or the telnet command — neither one
of these options will likely do the job for you in the long run.
While PuTTY is great, TeraTerm Pro seems even more full-featured.
And if you have some budget money to spend, SecureCRT is by far the best
One thing about terminal emulators is that no matter what
network you work on or what type of Cisco network equipment you have, you have
to have a terminal emulator — and you have to know how to use it.
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David Davis has worked
in the IT industry for 12 years and holds several certifications, including
CCIE, MCSE+I, CISSP, CCNA, CCDA, and CCNP. He currently manages a group of
systems/network administrators for a privately owned retail company and
performs networking/systems consulting on a part-time basis.